Jonathan Licht, MD, Johanna Dobe Professor and chief of hematology and medical oncology, is one of four researchers recently awarded a grant from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) through its Marshall A. Lichtman Specialized Center of Research (SCOR). Licht’s grant totals $6.25 million over five years.
The SCOR program funds teams of researchers representing different disciplines who are engaged in collaborative efforts to discover new approaches to treat patients with hematological malignancies.
Along with a distinguished group of co-investigators at Rockefeller University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the University of Michigan, Licht studies aberrant epigenetic regulation in leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
“Our goal is to have a deeper understanding of how the genes are turned on and off by epigenetic, how mutations that occur in blood cancers can lead to patterns of abnormal gene regulation, and how therapeutic agents might be able to reverse those problems,” Licht said.
His research group includes leukemia biologists, molecular biologists, structural biologists, and chemists. The team will work together to discover how mutant epigenetic proteins cause blood cancers, develop animal models of these processes, solve the atomic structure of the proteins, and begin to develop therapies to reverse the abnormalities.
“Our group of scientists is in a position to thoroughly dissect clinical syndromes associated with acquired mutations in critical gene regulatory proteins and ask, ‘What does this protein normally do? What happens when it’s mutated? Can we reverse the process?’” he said.
Over the past five years, the group has published several papers in high impact journals such as Blood and Cancer Cell.